Gilmore targets Warner as ‘elite limousine liberal’

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RICHMOND | Republican James S. Gilmore III opened his Senate race Tuesday with broad attacks on his Democratic foe, Mark Warner, regarding taxes, trustworthiness and energy policy.

Mr. Gilmore called Mr. Warner an “elite limousine liberal,” a “knave” on foreign policy, and a “piranha” hungry for tax money.

Mr. Gilmore repeatedly hit Mr. Warner, his successor as governor, for breaking a 2001 campaign promise by raising taxes $1.4 billion.

Trailing Mr. Warner badly in early independent polling and fundraising and burdened by an unpopular Republican president, Mr. Gilmore faces a difficult task in retaining the seat Sen. John W. Warner kept in Republican hands for 30 years.

Mr. Gilmore returned to the anti-tax platform that has been his political hallmark, framing the wealthy Mr. Warner as someone bent on higher taxes even as soaring fuel costs crush the working class.

“Mark Warner is just like a hungry piranha. There’s just no end to his appetite for the people’s tax money,” Mr. Gilmore said.

Warner spokesman Kevin Hall called the remarks classic Gilmore campaign tactics.

“Jim Gilmore’s comments today show why Mark Warner is supported by Democrats, Republicans and independents across Virginia. Electing Mr. Gilmore will mean more of the negative, name-calling politics of the past,” Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Warner has for years derided Mr. Gilmore’s handling of the state’s finances as the nation slid into a recession in 2001. Mr. Warner pushed his tax increase through a Republican legislature three years later to remedy a fiscal mess he attributed to Mr. Gilmore.

On Monday, two retired Republicans who headed the House and Senate budget-writing panels endorsed Mr. Warner and vouched for his handling of the budget crisis.

Mr. Warner and Mr. Gilmore have never been friendly. Mr. Gilmore bristled for years at what he calls a myth Mr. Warner concocted to renege on his repeated gubernatorial campaign pledge not to raise taxes.

“Mark Warner is an elite limousine liberal that has gone out there and said one thing to get elected - very specifically - and then broke his word to the people of Virginia,” Mr. Gilmore said.

On the issue of energy, Mr. Gilmore sought to portray Mr. Warner’s opposition to drilling for oil in an Alaskan wilderness as callousness toward the crisis gasoline costs have caused for middle- and lower-income wage earners.

“They’re having trouble now putting $300 a month into their gas tanks to get to and from work,” Mr. Gilmore said.

Mr. Gilmore called for aggressive oil exploration and drilling not only on the federally protected wildlife refuge on Alaska’s north slopes but in offshore areas off the U.S. coast, for expanded use of nuclear power and for greater use of coal. He mocked the Sierra Club for its endorsement of Mr. Warner.

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